Many refugees, mostly Christians, have fled their own country due to religious persecution and are seeking asylum in an urban area of South East Asia. They are not recognised by the government, so they are not legally allowed to stay while awaiting resettlement in a third country through the UNHCR.
These refugees are left in very vulnerable situations. They are not allowed to work. And if caught without a visa, they will end up in overcrowded detention centres.
To address this problem, Amy is working with a small organisation partnering with 9 churches to support about 100 asylum-seeking and refugee families.
“God is generous: he has provided for so many people in so many different ways. Families have grown in their faith and dependency on God. And churches have grown in their capacity and desire to help brothers and sisters during their time of difficulty.”
This growth in church and personal capacity has had a great impact. Instead of being overwhelmed and not knowing how to respond to calls for help, churches have been equipped to support asylum seekers and refugees.
As a result, those who were once marginalised have become valued members of their church family and contribute to its flourishing life: teaching children, welcoming others, cooking food and making music!
Would you stand with us in praying for the persecuted church on November 6?
Amy is an Interserve worker serving urban refugees in South East Asia.
Names have been changed.
The tide is shifting. For some time now, it has been coming in and we are challenged more and more in how to respond. The church has traditionally thought of going out on mission overseas, but now the nations have come all around us—at least into our society, but into our churches, not so much. So what are we to do?
Jesus calls us as his people: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). When we think about it, this call to disciple others in following Jesus is applicable to us whether we’re going about our work here in Australia, or whether we’re going out to the furthest reaches of the world. The emphasis is on making disciples.
This call is not only for us to share amongst ourselves. God’s heart is ultimately for the nations to glorify him together in vibrant worship. And that’s the picture we see in the new heaven and earth:
“Behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, were standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands” (Revelation 7:9).
With this glorious vision for our future in mind, we look around us and see the multiethnic environments in which we live, work and study. And yet we think: if God desires people from all these nations around us to follow Jesus and worship him, then it does not make sense that, according to the National Church Life Survey 2021, approximately three quarters of churches in Australia are monocultural.
Why is this? And what should we do about it?
Community and Partnerships Director, Lisa Bateup, reflects on how Interserve can use its skills and knowledge to support the work of God’s people:
“Making disciples of all nations is the calling of the church.”
“Yet intercultural ministry requires a great deal of intentionality to produce lasting change. It will not happen without the active involvement of church leadership.
“So we’re seeking to partner with the church in their ministry, to better reflect the local community and grow their engagement with what God is doing around the world.
“We’re seeking long-term partnerships with the local church that enable us to journey with them in their discipleship and outreach activities.”
As we speak, this church engagement initiative is building a team to work closely with a small number of churches around the country in 2023 to support their work. They are seeking church leaders to be part of an advisory group to provide insight into where they would value support in local and global missions engagement.
“God is the one bringing the nations to Australia and working out his purposes as the country becomes more ethnically and culturally diverse,” Lisa said.
“We have the privilege and responsibility of joining in the work he is already doing. This will both revitalise our churches and raise up workers for the harvest field around the world.”
So as the tides continue to come in, and people from many nations cross the seas to live amongst us, the question is raised to each one of us and our local churches: as we go, how can we join in God’s work of making disciples of all nations?
How can we make disciples of all nations from our own local setting?
That was one of the bright and colourful threads running through Interserve’s Australian Team Conference. It was brilliant to see everyone face-to-face again in our first national conference in 10 years! It kicked off with a fun-filled evening celebrating 170 years of Interserve with cake and conversations, cross-cultural experiences and stories from Asia and the Arab world.
In a weekend of inspirational speeches and up-skilling partners, International Director Bijoy Koshy gave the keynote address on how Interserve can see lives and communities transformed through encounter with Jesus—in the local/global mission dynamic. More and more we realise how we do not face a go/send divide in God’s mission of making disciples and extending his love. Rather, we engage in the frontline wherever we are in our local context, and wherever we go in our global context. So following Jesus’ words in Matthew 28:19, as you go on your journey, “make disciples” among the people of the nations who come to your neighbourhood, just as when you go out to them.
Matthew Kuruvilla spoke on growing a multi-ethnic church through the story of his time as Senior Pastor at Sydney’s Parkside Church. The author of ‘Church without Borders’ demonstrated theologically and practically the beautiful reality of how we no longer gather according to ethnicity, but that people of all ethnicities gather around Christ.
Lisa Bateup, Community and Partnerships Director, addressed how Interserve can support the church in Australia in intercultural mission. She emphasised listening to church leaders, supporting churches in their ministry goals, customising our support, and investing in ongoing relationships.
A highlight of the workshops showed how mentoring men and women brings wonderful growth in godliness, courage and ability to serve in the community:
Mentoring is walking alongside someone in their journey in an intentional relationship whereby one person empowers, challenges and enables another to develop in areas of character and competence, thus increasing the impact in their life and service for the glory of God.
It is especially vital for Gen Z that we convey a wholistic, integrated vision of how we may live as followers of Jesus in our local and global environment.
So as we asked in our national conference, let’s ask ourselves as we go: how can we as individuals and churches respond to the call to build a multicultural church—in our neighbourhood and in the world?